Dec 21, 2015
THEME: Point of View

The Last Humanist Profession

Our Atlanta office’s Design Director Manuel Cadrecha just released a monograph surveying highlights from his 35-year career. Below, he reflects on what inspired him to become an architect. Learn more about the book here.

My father was an engineer. When I was growing up, he instilled in me an admiration for ancient Rome: its civilization, culture, and design. When I decided to become an architect, my father was delighted because he believed that architecture is the last humanist profession. Looking back on my career, I agree with him.

I can trace my first interest in architecture to 1964 when, while living in New York, I visited the World’s Fair. The futuristic pavilions and overwhelming sense of progress excited me; it was just around the corner. I marveled at the Unisphere, the fair’s iconic stainless steel earth sculpture. The fair was about the future and about a convergence of global cultures. My father, who was born in Spain, took me to the Spanish Pavilion. I remember being amazed at seeing one of El Cid’s swords. I also became interested in the sense of my own heritage in an old and mysterious culture.

Overview of the 1964 New York World's Fair, with the Unisphere at left. Image via Joe Haupt's Flickr account.

Overview of the 1964 New York World’s Fair, with the Unisphere at left. Image via Joe Haupt’s Flickr account.

We moved to Madrid two years later. It was quite a change. I remember going with my mother to a palace-like bank where she filled out forms with pens that needed to be dipped in ink. I walked to stores, museums, cafés, and friends’ houses. I rode trolley cars and watched with fascination as the driver with a single-lever control guided the car on its tracks through park lanes, neighborhoods, and boulevards. I admired the beautiful scale and details of the buildings and everyday life. Madrid instilled a love for history and tradition deep within me, as well as a belief of art’s ability to elevate our existence.


Sketch by Manuel Cadrecha

Going back to New York for my senior year of high school, I remember standing in ticket lines on bright summer days in Central Park. I stood amongst the grass and trees outside Joe Papp’s Shakespeare in the Park, a brooding, self-concerned young Hamlet with an uncertain future in front of me. Looking beyond the trees, I was amazed by the fantastic array of the tall ribbon of buildings bordering the park. They were varied in height, form, age, and style. They were elegant and optimistic and owned their place in the city. New York charged me with a passion for modernity, as well as the power of creative invention to improve our lives.

My youth, spent in both the old and new worlds, shaped my work and view of the world. As an architect, I feel strongly that buildings should be culturally relevant, historically aware, forward-looking, adaptable, and most importantly, beautiful.

In architecture, I feel a deep connection to my past and my future, to tradition and innovation, and to beauty and invention. I love being an architect because, in architecture, I can have the remarkable effect of improving people’s lives and bridging cultures together.

Buy Manuel’s book from ORO Editions here.

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